On my 45th birthday I published a posting on the Hebrew word for LIFE. I never would have guessed what my life would look like four years later. I was fairly confident I was headed in one direction, but this past September put a significant bend in the road. Not only was there a bend, but the dual-passenger lane went to a single lane, and now I’m driving solo.
Doctor Who once said: “We’re all stories in the end. Just make it a good one, eh?!” For a fictional sci-fi character, that’s pretty good advice. We are living in Biblical times. That may surprise many people, but the truth is, the promises of the Bible have yet to be fulfilled and the beautiful end of the story (outlined in John’s Revelation) hasn’t fully been realized yet. That means we’re still walking through the Biblical adventure. You are part of the epic story of humanity!
I’ve made many choices in my choose-your-own-adventure story. What will my life-story look like now? Maybe you’re asking the same questions. The truth is, only God knows…
…But one thing I do know, I have a living God and He will take care of me… whatever life brings.
The Bible talks a lot about LIFE… I mean, A.LOT! In fact, the Bible really is the epic adventure of human life… It tells our story. And although it was written centuries before today, it certainly was an impact statement in the days of its earliest readings.
The Ancient Near East was filled with cultures who worshipped multiple deities (Egyptians, Canaanites, Babylonians, to name a few). They bowed down to man-made idols and some even made human sacrifices (which YHWH hated!) to appease these fickle gods.
To these cultures the Hebrew people stuck out like a sore thumb. The Hebrew people believed in only one God and they had no idols to bow down to, or to lift up into battle. What kind of God did they live for?
THE LIVING GOD
There was a unique emphasis placed on the Hebrew God. This Creator God was living… active… alive… and unable to be represented by an object. Over and over (including, Deuteronomy 5:26, Jeremiah 23:36, 1 Samuel 17:36, Psalm 84:2) we read the emphasis that YHWH was a Living God:
Psalm 42:1-3, 8
As the deer pants for the water brooks, so my soul pants for You, God.
My soul thirsts for God, for the living God [l-El khai]; when shall I come and appear before God?
My tears have been my food day and night, while they say to me all day long, “Where is your God?”…
…YHWH will send His goodness in the daytime; and His song will be with me in the night, a prayer to the God of my life [l-El khai’yay].
“Where is your God?”, the other nations asked. And there wasn’t an easy answer for the Hebrew people to give. They couldn’t point to a statue and reply, “there”, or carry a mini-version in their pockets as they travelled. They couldn’t lift a banner in battle and say, “here is our Warrior God”. But what they could say was that their God created everything that the foreign nations made their gods out of… YHWH created the stone, and the wood, and the crafters who formed the pagan gods out of YHWH’s creation. The God of the Hebrew people was the epitome of LIFE… the Great Life Giver, and the God of all the living.
David boldly believed that His God was very much alive:
[David:] YHWH lives [khai YHWH]!
And blessed be my Rock; and exalted be the God of my Salvation.
All of God’s children, all the living of the earth, were from YHWH. He created them and they were His living children and He was their living God:
Yet the number of the sons of Israel will be like the sand of the sea, which cannot be measured or counted; and in the place where it is said to them, “You are not My people,” it will be said to them, “You are the sons of the living God [b’ney El Khai]”
AS YHWH LIVES…
YHWH’s life was so central to the Hebrew people’s existence that it turned into a pledge. “As YHWH lives…” was a declaration of assuredness. It was a serious oath, repeated multiple times in the Bible (most prominently used in 1 & 2 Samuel, 1 & 2 Kings, and Jeremiah):
“And it will come about that after I have driven them out, I will again have compassion on them; and I will bring them back, each one to his inheritance and each one to his land. Then, if they will really learn the ways of My people, to swear by My name, ‘As YHWH lives [khai YHWH],’ just as they taught My people to swear by Baal, they will be built up in the midst of My people.”
‘As I live [Khai ani]!’ declares the Lord YHWH, ‘I take no pleasure at all in the death of the wicked, but rather that the wicked turn from his way and live [w-khayah]. Turn back, turn back from your evil ways! Why then should you die, house of Israel?’
YHWH wished death on no one. That was the domain of God’s Adversary… the evil one who ensnared people and dragged them to their extinction. But death had no place in YHWH’s Kingdom. Humans were given a choice… choose death or choose life:
“You shall also say to this people, ‘This is what YHWH says: “Behold, I am setting before you the way of the life [et derek ha-khayim] and the way of the death [w-et derek ha-mawet].”’
YHWH gives life, but we must choose it.
For more on the Biblical understanding of LIFE… including the conquering of death and the concept of eternal living, click below for the full posting:
For the next few weeks we’ll break down a few phrases about life that carried a strong footprint in the Bible, including: Tree of Life, Living Water/Fountain of Life, Book of Life, and the Land of the Living.
Next week: Living Water/Fountain of Life